Wrigley, the gum company, will stop the production of chewing gum that includes a caffeine jolt until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) figures out to how regulate caffeine-enhanced consumer items.
The new gum was marketed as Alert Energy Caffeine Gum and it contains about 40 milligrams of caffeine, reports Reuters, about the same amount as a half cup of coffee. Chewing the pack would be the equivalent of four cups of coffee, according to the FDA website.
The announcement from Wrigley comes less than a week after the FDA announced it would take a “fresh look” at the issue of caffeinated products, the gum just the latest in an array of products largely aimed at a young consumer.
Alert gum has a slightly bitter taste and is not marketed at children, but at adults age 25 and older. Other similar products include Stride Spark Gum with vitamins B6 and B12 and Trident Vitality Gum with ingredients such as Vitamin C, green tea and ginseng.
FDA is increasingly concerned with how to regulate the growing field of caffeinated products especially in light of the adverse events reported such as heart attacks suffered by some young users of energy drinks. In November, the agency received reports of 18 deaths and 150 injuries linked to caffeinated products.
Historically this is not entirely a new problem. In the 1950s, the FDA approved the use of caffeine in cola drinks. Since then there have been a plethora of caffeine-fuelled products. Leading the pack are energy drinks with names like Monster and Jolt. Monster Beverage Corp skirts FDA regulations by calling its product a dietary supplement. The FDA does not regulate dietary supplements and allows the industry to self-regulate.
The central concern is the effect of too much caffeine on developing youngsters, particularly the neurologic and cardiovascular effects. Fox News reports that major medical associations fear children may not be able to process caffeine as well as adults.
The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend caffeine or caffeine-containing products for children.
Make no doubt about it. Caffeine profiteers see children and adolescents as a potential market. Food manufacturers have jumped into the trend such as Arma Energy Snx which contains caffeine. Recently Jelly Belly “Extreme Sport Beans” have been launched with 50 milligrams of caffeine, according to Fox News, in every 100-calorie pack.
An FDA spokesman, Michael Taylor, noted that “some in the food industry are on a dubious and potentially dangerous path,” reports the Los Angeles Times.
The FDA is finally poised to establish some guidelines and boundaries which could include a designation as a food additive. The amount of caffeine added to consumer products could then be restricted.